Interview with James Grierson, CEO of Bluehost
Bluehost is one of those hosting companies that is pretty ubiquitous in the United States (and possibly beyond). There's a good reason for that too: their focus on innovative solutions for their customers in catering to each type of user puts them in a pretty good spot. We sat down with James Grierson, Bluehost's CEO, who told us about the company's current status and direction.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and the roles you oversee at BlueHost and Endurance International Group? How does Bluehost work with EIG?
EIG works with a House of Brands strategy much like what you see in the Automobile industry. One company owns a number of brands that cater to different segments in the market. At Bluehost we focus on delivering high quality technology and innovative solutions for our customers.
Bluehost is everywhere in the US! What can you say about the success of the company?
Bluehost has a large mix of customers from all over the world. The success of the company has been driven by the passion of our employees. Our main goal is to find ways to help our customers succeed by using the internet. Whether they are running a blog, a non-profit, a business website or an ecommerce platform we strive to allow our customers to pick and choose the right solutions to help them reach their goals.
Bluehost's affiliate incentives certainly drive signups. Can you tell us about how that strategy came to fruition and how it has been maintained?
The affiliate marketing strategy is really about finding partners who can reach our target audiences. The strategy began back in the early days and we focused on building long lasting partnerships that are mutually beneficial for us, the affiliate and the customers they point in our direction. It's not just the number of customers an affiliate can send to us, but the quality of the referral. We want customers who are set up to succeed online and finding the right partners to reach those customers is key.
Can you talk about the locations of your office? How many employees does Bluehost have?
EIG has offices all over the world. At Bluehost we have the bulk of our 700+ employees in Utah. There are also a number of employees in various locations around the world who work cross-functionally with other EIG brands including Bluehost.
How do the various offices work together? Is there anything you can speak to about the company culture?
We use a lot of phone calls, instant messaging and video conferencing among the offices. Since EIG is international we have to schedule some meetings really early or really late so we can include our family from around the world. There is a strong sense of urgency around plans and getting things done. Some of the fun things we do around the office include ping-pong, air-hockey, pool, fitness competitions, charity events, group movies, Halloween costume contests and more.
Can you tell us more about Business On TAPP? What is your involvement in this initiative?
Business on TAPP is an application to help small business owners share ideas and information. It is something all employees within the EIG family are encouraged to help contribute toward. Many people send in articles and expertise for the benefit of the whole community.
Can you talk about your cloud hosting product? How does it work?
We have a number of hosting products. If you break it down we have shared, VPS, Dedicated and Cloud offerings. Within each of those categories we have multiple product lines that help meet customer needs. For example, we have a specific hosting plan on our shared product for eCommerce customers located at www.bluehost.com/wordpress_woocommerce. This plan includes everything the user needs to get started with an online store including hosting, dedicated IP, SSL certificate, WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin and themes pre-installed.
Does Bluehost ever plan to do more besides hosting? What's on the product road map over the next 24 months?
At Bluehost our core competency is hosting. We do offer many complimentary products to help customers succeed online including design, marketing and other small business services.
How do you suggest a company focus on product/market expansion to grow wider adoption?
Find your core competency and then market the way you do it to your customers. Ask yourself a few questions:
What is the "pain" you are solving for them. Why is the customer hiring you to resolve that pain? In what ways do you do a better job than the competition?
As you do these things you will naturally grow your market share. Knowing the customer and how to reach them is key to success.
What advice do you give to people who are seeking out mentors?
The first step is identifying potential mentors in your life. Once you have an introduction to the person, you need to find a way to make a mutually beneficial relationship. Everyone has something they can give of themselves in any interaction. At Bluehost we call this Adding Value. When interacting with people, don't start the conversation with, "this is what I need from you." As you enter into relationships with potential mentors, find ways in which you can add value to them. Once you do so, it is natural for them to want to find ways to reciprocate and spend their time investing in you.
How has cloud hosting changed your business? Are you seeing demand for the product offering, or do you feel that education is still needed to grow widespread adoption?
Cloud hosting is the future of technology. Rapid scalability to meet consumer demands is the future of hosting. The product is still in its infancy for many users who are not aware of the benefits and educating the customer is key to widespread adoption.
What types of marketing tactics are you seeing that are working right now to help Bluehost become best in its class?
Sorry but I cannot divulge the secret sauce. Lets just say you should not keep all your eggs in one basket. By diversifying the portfolio of marketing tactics you are able to spread out the risk. If all of your customers come from one source, you live and die by it. I highly recommend diversifying your marketing strategy to include a minimum of three types of customer source types and then grow it from there.
Are you seeing a heavy reliance on WordPress as you have in the past? Have you observed any dependence on one-page site builders, such as Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace?
WordPress is the staple of web builders in the ecosystem. A majority of new customers utilize a CMS for building their business. We have been a large supporter of the WordPress community and strive to make the self-hosted WordPress experience on Bluehost great. Many other site builders are good at what they do for the audience they attract. While we do have other builders available, our customers have shown WordPress serves their needs the best.